Odds are risky for whales at IWC

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2006:

ST. KITTS–The outcome of the 58th annual meeting of the
International Whaling Commission, upcoming at the St. Kitts & Nevis
Marriot Resort and Royal Beach Casino, looks like an even bet.
“This year the pro-whaling nations look likely to achieve
their first majority,” assess environment correspondents David
McNeill and Michael McCarthy of The Independent–but that was just
before Israel joined the IWC, possibly tipping the balance against
“Over the past six years, at least 14 nations have been
recruited to the IWC as Japan’s supporters,” McNeill and McCarthy
note. “Most of them have no whaling tradition. Some, such as
Mongolia and Mali, do not even have a coastline.

“It is likely that the full total of supporting states Japan
has brought into the IWC since 1998 is 19,” McNeill and McCarthy
believe. “All can be shown to be clients of Japan by the consistency
of their IWC voting. They can also be shown to be in receipt of
Japanese largesse.” The Republic of Guinea, McNeill and McCarthy
note, which joined the IWC in 2000, in 2002 received $6.6 million
from Japan to build a fish market in Conakry, the Guinean capital.
“A 51% majority will not secure scrapping the 1986 moratorium
[on commercial whaling],” McNeill and McCarthy explain. “That needs
a majority of 75%. But it would be a huge propaganda coup for the
whaling nations, and would enable them to bring in other measures,
such as secret voting, which may bring the crucial majority nearer.”
Confirmed New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark during an
April 17, 2006 Newstalk ZB broadcast, “We’ve been concerned for a
number of years because Japan has been steadily recruiting small
developing countries to its cause.”
“We’re trying to persuade some nations not only to attend and
join the IWC, but also to send ministers who will have a lot more
political heft than we normally see at the IWC,” said New Zealand
IWC delegation chief Sir Geoffrey Palmer.
But “political heft” will not mean as much to poor nations as
money, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society founder Paul Watson warned,
after shadowing and skirmishing with the six-vessel Japanese whaling
fleet in December 2005 and early January 2006.
“I am urging other groups with money who campaign against the
slaughter of the whales, like the International Fund for Animal
Welfare and Humane Society of the U.S., to underwrite the membership
dues of pro-whale members of the IWC,” Watson said. “They need to
do with poor pro-whale nations what Japan is doing with the poor
nations that it recruits to support whaling. A few hundred thousand
dollars could prevent the Japanese from seizing control of the IWC.
“At the 2005 IWC convention, of the 66 IWC member nations,”
Watson reminded, “29 voted yes to commercial whaling, and 30 voted
no. Anti-whaling nations Costa Rica, Kenya, and Peru could not
vote,” as their dues had not been paid. “Four pro-whaling nations
[allied with Japan]–Belize, Gambia, Mali, and Togo–were absent.
“If all IWC member nations show up to vote in 2006,” Watson
continued, “it will be 33 yes and 34 no. But Costa Rica, Kenya,
and Peru may not show up because they cannot afford the membership
dues. The solution is for groups like Greenpeace, IFAW, or HSUS to
pay their dues, and also to recruit other nations to join to support
the whales.”
The Sea Shepherds, a much smaller organization, ran out of
fuel, budget, and luck at the end of their December 2005
anti-whaling campaign. The Farley Mowat, the Sea Shepherd flagship,
docked in Cape Town, South Africa, in January, after 50 days of
chasing and occasionally skirmishing with the eight-vessel Japanese
whaling fleet. The original plan was to refuel, then head north to
protest against the annual Atlantic Canada seal massacre.
Instead, the Farley Mowat was marooned at dockside because
the South African government insisted that it had to meet various
requirements applicable to commercial vessels. The Farley Mowat is
actually registered in Canada as a yacht–a pleasure craft–because
Watson considers the activities of the mostly volunteer Sea Shepherd
crew to be a pleasure, rather than commerce.
South African and Japanese officials denied Watson’s claim that
Japanese political pressure was behind the detention.
Japanese whalers killed 853 minke whales and 10 fin whales
between December 2005 and mid-April 2006, mostly within waters
designated as a whale sanctuary by the IWC in 1994, but not actually
protected in any manner. The self-assigned Japanese quota for the
2006-2007 whaling season reportedly includes 50 fin whales and 50
humpback whales, internationally recognized as endangered. Japan
has killed nearly 10,000 whales, mostly in the name of research,
since the IWC moratorium was approved in 1986.
The 2005-2006 hunt added about 1,700 metric tons of whale
meat to the Japanese inventory of about 2,700 metric tons. Although
the price of whale meat is now down a third from the 1999 price,
sales came to just 1,035 metric tons in 2005. That apparently
included large amounts provided by the Japan Whaling Association for
school lunches in Wakayama prefecture, a pro-whaling community,
and some sold for dog food.
A realignment of the Japanese pro-whaling strategy of as yet
unclear implications came on March 24, when the shareholders in the
for-profit firm Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha Ltd., which had done the
Japanese “scientific” whaling under contract to the government
Institute of Cetacean Research, transferred their assets to the
institute and several affiliated nonprofit corporations.
About 32% of the shares had belonged to Nippon Suisan Kaisha.
“According to press reports, Nippon Suisan has stated that it also
intends to stop canning and selling whale meat,” said the
Environmental Investi-gation Agency. “In November 2005 the EIA
released a report, The Gorton’s Family Whale Killing Business,
targeting one of Nippon Suisan’s most profitable subsidiary
companies, Gorton’s of Gloucester.
“EIA, with the Humane Society of the U.S. and Greenpeace,
called on Gorton’s to use its connections with Nissui to end Japan’s
whale hunting. A subsequent global consumer campaign putting
pressure on Gorton’s and other Nissui subsidiaries has no doubt
brought about this change in shareholder structure,” the EIA claimed.
Commented Watson, “Nissui had to divest because two of their
companies, Gorton’s in the U.S. and Sealord in New Zealand, were the
target of consumer boycotts. The campaign began with the Earth
Island Institute in January 2005,” according to Watson, “when
Sealord inquired of Earth Island about becoming certified as ‘dolphin
safe.’ It is a victory for the whales that Nissui has agreed to get
out of the whaling business,” Watson said, “but their shares have
been taken over by the government of Japan.”
Believes McNeill, “The real engine behind the whale campaign
is that after decades in the diplomatic and military shadow of the
U.S., Japanese nationalists within the ruling Liberal Democratic
Party feel this is one area where they can make some noise. Besides,
if they back down on whales, restrictions on other marine resources
may follow, including that beloved staple, tuna.”
Two other nations have openly defied the 1986 whaling moratorium.
The Norwegian whaling season “officially started on April 1,
but most whalers don’t begin until early May,” wrote Nina Berglund
of the Aftenposten English web desk, after the British Embassy in
mid-April delivered a protest letter co-signed by 10 other nations to
the Norwegian foreign ministry.
“Around 30 boats will participate in this year’s hunt,”
Berglund continued, “and they have authority to kill 1,052 whales,
250 more than last year. The hunt seems more symbolic and seeped in
tradition,” Berglund observed, “than backed by commercial reward.
The market for whale meat is small, and it is not the staple of the
Norwegian diet that it once was. The market for whale blubber is also
restricted, and exports are limited.”
The Norwegian quota consists of an annual base of 745 whales,
plus 307 whales “left over” because the full 2004 and 2005 quotas
were not met.
Iceland, the third active whaling nation, killed 39 whales in 2005
and is expected o kill about as many this year.
Preliminary IWC meetings start on May 24. Voting on the
resolutions that may determine the fate of whales will come during
the main part of the IWC meeting, June 16-20, after weeks of
preliminary maneuvering that annually serves as a test of strength
between the pro-whaling and anti-whaling nations.

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